Following Your Own Rules

Following Your Own Rules

Warning: unpopular topic below!

Betting rules / handicapping guidelines / bankroll management organization / race passing stipulations / goal setting – etc. etc. 

Do you have them?  If you do – good for you, and if you don’t . . . why not?

If you are one of the few that have them, do you follow them to the letter?

I think the real truth is:  Most players don’t have them, and of those that do, most of those don’t follow them strictly enough.

Why is that?

As I have stated before, I believe race players to be among the most independent-minded, and opinionated folks around. For this reason they tend to reject rules and regulations in general.  Unfortunately, this can carry over to even those rules they’ve established for themselves!

Also – most people sort of abuse their freedoms.  After their first 15-20 years of being forced to abide by the choices made by others (parents or guardians), and then perhaps also the years spent in military service strictly following the regimen that others had set, and even (for a majority) many decades more of working as a job slave . . . once free of all that, a person can tend towards resentment – and the rejection of ‘following rules.’

That rejection is natural and even good! Many of us were attracted to the game precisely because it allowed us unlimited expression of creative freedom . . . but some let those personal-choice freedoms slip into the negative situation of a more-or-less permanent lack of self-discipline.  This can be a ‘death knell’ to consistent profits in horse racing.

Perhaps the reason there are relatively few consistent winning players – is that to play the game successfully we necessarily have to create viable rules . . . and follow them – thus going against our own tendencies, and somewhat against the reasons we were attracted to the game originally.

However that may be – it seems to me that the establishing of sensible ‘rules’ and guidelines for ourselves is an absolute must. And we have to find a way to ‘buckle down’ – to be our own stern taskmasters, and follow those rules “to a t”.

Since the game itself is always completely out of our control – with something unexpected around every turn – control of ourselves is of utmost importance.

For myself – I include control of data, and rigorous record-keeping in that . . . but that’s another unpleasant (for most players) subject I’ll save for a future post.

Also let me say – I’m not ‘on a high horse’ here.  The truth of what I’ve been rapping about above has been driven home to me by the scores of times I’ve been knocked off that ‘high horse’ – and hit my head against the hard ground of reality. After the first decade or so . . . some of the common sense I should have had to begin with – was finally pounded into me.

If I could narrow down all of the previous:

– Get some knowledge of the game

– Get some actual experience wagering small (and likely losing) . . .

– Then strive to establish those rules that work for you (proved by accurate record keeping).

– Lastly become a merciless task-master over yourself, and stick-to-your-own-rules.

After a while, it gets to be almost second-nature, and your lapses become fewer and farther between. The self-discipline ceases to be a chore, or even a challenge. It then morphs into almost its opposite – and actually gives you back a new and improved kind of freedom – which is what many of us were seeking in the first place – the day we laid down that first bet.

As always – comments are more-than welcomed.                 – Gary



  1. Yes sir, it’s that “discipline” thing…even after 20+ years, I have to remain vigilant, else I will stray from my “plan”….although, at times, attempting something “new” helps to see that staying the proven plan is most beneficial. Having an asset such as HRG has enabled me to do both…follow the disciplined path–AND take some divergent sidesteps that refresh and renew my commitment.

    • Carl – Well said my friend. You help clarify a point I might have given short shrift in the post: Trying new things – creativity – is a good thing. But this should be done first by way of research and observation – by testing, re-testing, and analyzing results . . . as opposed to spontaneous emotional responses, and zigging/zagging in the ‘heat of battle.’

      The ‘Plan’ (rules) can change. Evolution is the natural way of things – but should only be based on that which has shown itself to be better for ones long-term bankroll. Gary

  2. Great topic Gary.

    I have two friends. One sits on my left shoulder and the other sits on my right. One of them likes to follow the rules I bothered to write down and swear to follow and the other likes to add exceptions. I used to let him do that until what was written is two pages long. Then I get pissed and he goes away for awhile.

    I’ve come to learn that once I start moving the lines I will see twenty more instances that I will have to debate with my “friends”. They aren’t pleasant conversations. So, I’ve made one deal with myself that has worked. If I change anything that I originally started out with like John was saying above (going to 31 days, 32, etc.) then I force myself to start all over. That usually ends the debate.

    Some of the rules you have provided with your systems drive me nuts at times, but I know they were put there for a reason and out of respect to you (most of the time) they are not up for debates. Just thought you should know 😉


    • Ron – Hey, what a coincidence – I have those same two friends! Thanks for the great comment.

      Let me restate something I’ve tried to make clear many times in the past: I believe that any and all of the methods I’ve released can be either improved upon, or at least made to better fit an individual handicapper’s approach to the game. I encourage the “divergent side-steps” Carl was referring to above. “Tweaking” a rule here and there can potentially end up improving the bottom-line – adding a unique ‘twist’ can possibly make a substantial difference. Making a thing “your own” is important (on many levels) – just as long as it is done meticulously (i.e. rigorous record-keeping justifies the change).

      And Ron, I appreciate the “most of the time” qualifier you added – that is exactly as it should be. It’s just not a ‘hard-edged’ game – not a definitive science.

      Though the title of the post insinuated “following rules” – the critical emphasis should always be on the “self-dicipline” part. Gary

  3. Oh boy, you’ve just described my whole history of trying to tackle this game. 30 years ago, I came across a publication/newsletter about trainer handicapping. The author was constantly hammering home the idea of discipline. I recall doing research on an angle, and seeing that it seemed to be profitable in the narrow range of 4/1 – 7/1. At the track one day, and my horse is at 9/1. Come on, go down to 7/1 and I’ll bet. Well, it stayed at 9, I desisted, and it won. Score: Game 1, Discipline 0. It left me wondering why I’d bothered. Years later, I bought a tape by someone knowledgeable about horse body language. Tail up and down=happy horse; left to right=angry horse. Another 9/1 shot, and I see the tail go left to right. Angry horse, I observed, and reluctantly held off making the bet, all the while swearing that if that damned horse won , I’d track down the self-styled expert and kick him where he’d take notice. Well it won, but lucky for the guy, I never bothered to carry out my plan.

    Then there’s the theory of backing a longshot under the fav for a saver EXA. Problem is, you could see a huge runout with these, so then you start seeing several 2nd place longshot finishes under the other non-fav contenders. Before you know, you’re shelling out more than originally planned, putting several horses over the longshot, only to find that if you hadn’t bothered with any exactas and just stuck to WIN, you’d be ahead. But then, sometimes it would be the other way around, and simply playing the 1st and 2nd fav over the longshot would have been the ticket.

    These kinds of experiences are precisely why keeping to a set of rules, even ones self-imposed after much research, is ultimately a very trying thing to do. Think of a method with a recency rule. OK: 30 days. Should I fudge with 31 days? 32? 35? 38? I guarantee no matter where you limit the fudging, you’ll see some come in just beyond your fudge limit. And as you do, discipline begins to feel more of a liability than as asset.

    I’m still trying, tho. Just haven’t had much success adhering to rigid discipline.

    • John – Thanks much for sharing. Yes, we’ve all been there – more times than it’s fun to remember. Of course, before a player begins to “stick to his guns” – he needs to make sure they are loaded with live ammo. To know whether or not your “rules” (your approach to the game) are valid, you must have real-money evidence that they are. And this must be over a large enough sample to provide a decent verification.

      And I agree – it is more an “art” than a science – but wherever you find your own “happy medium” between strict or loose adherence to rules – the basic, unavoidable fact is that self-dicipline is a must.

      – Gary

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